Behind the Image #16: Fresh Produce Still Life

Behind the Image #16: Fresh Produce Still Life

It’s funny where you get inspiration sometimes. I’ve been thinking a fair bit over these last few weeks about art created in the face of hardship, or art created about catastrophe. This painting, The Raft of the Medusa stuck in my mind.

This piece by Géricault reflected a contemporary event of the time. The sinking of the frigate The Medusa, and the survival of just 10 people. The survivors lived for 13 days on the raft, murdering the weak and resorting to cannibalism.

Now, we’re obviously not at that point during this pandemic (and hopefully, we never will be). The difficulties we are facing are of an altogether different kind.

But I couldn’t help but reflect on how lucky I was when my incredible fruit and vegetable delivery from Abel & Cole turned up this morning. This is great produce at the best of times, but these last two weeks I’ve been trying not to take it for granted how lucky we are right now.

We’re working from home, I cook from scratch most days, and actually I’ve seen my income go up rather than down. My PhD is suffering somewhat, but that’s to be expected.

Inspiration, not impersonation

When I take inspiration from paintings I try not to just copy them. Instead I like to take elements of a work of art and then reinterpret them into a new form.

The inspiration here was the triangular composition of this painting which it’s well known for. The picture above is courtesy of someone lovely who put it on the painting’s Wikipedia page, I can’t take credit for it. But it shows the famous two triangles in this dynamic composition. And so, that composition was what I had in mind when I made my own composition of fruit and vegetables.

The lighting was inspired by the Dutch Masters, that classic single window side lighting a subject. You can’t go wrong with this light and it’s my absolute favourite way to light this kind of still life image.

Dutch still life paintings often focussed on the exotic, being that they were a nation of traders and merchants at the time. And I felt like that was an appropriate theme today, at a time when we’re struggling sometimes to get the food that we might want to cook and eat.

Then the photo was fairly extensively retouched in Photoshop, with lots of dodging and burning to achieve that real depth to the composition, highlight each element, and bring out the texture.

It was fun! I think I’ll do another one next week when my delivery comes.


Equipment used


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